Just How Scary are the Monsters in “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”


Photograph from Collection Christophel / Alamy

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is the new film based on the titular children’s book series. Because the novel was for children and young adults, some of the scares fall flat. However, director Guillermo Del Toro, also known for The Shape of Water, does an amazing job of bringing the monsters to life, ranging from unsettling to horrifying.

The first monster shown is Harold the scarecrow. Mercilessly beaten by the young boy, Tommy, one night, Harold comes to life. Rather than stalking Tommy dramatically until finally confronting him at midnight like most movies, their fight lasts maybe ten minutes. Harold comes alive in a cornfield and clunks after Tommy with a wooden and metal frame. Every step is a creak and a thump before he finally stabs Tommy with a pitchfork. Tommy begins to cough and soon starts vomiting up hay. Hay also starts to pour out of the pitchfork wounds and out of his hair. In a matter of minutes, Tommy has replaced Harold as the scarecrow on the farm, and no one is aware of what happened to him.

The next monster is a woman who lost her big toe. As the story goes, a woman loses her toe and it ends up in a stew. If you eat the stew, she haunts you. Yes, it is stupid. I didn’t think this one would get me, but Del Toro made her haunting. She hobbles through the halls of a home with a sickeningly slow limp. She only says one thing, “Who has my toe?” Her voice is as rasp as if she’s been drowned and returned from the grave to haunt you. She’s a frighteningly tall woman, with hair covering her dirty face, and she ALWAYS gets her toe back from you, no matter how she does it.

For fans of body horror, the movie featured a contortionist that could bend and break his body to move in any way he pleased. The Jangly Man, as he was called, appears by having his dis-membered head fall through your chimney. He screams a bloody cry, and the rest of his body parts follow through the chimney as he puts himself together to reveal he is well above human height. In perhaps the most graphic kill in the movie, The Jangly Man snaps his victim’s neck, killing him instantly. There is no fight scene or barely any dialogue, just the two seconds it took to get his monstrous hands around his victim’s face. The monster is played by an actual contortionist, and seeing the actor perform his body breaking routine out of makeup made the scene all the scarier.

Maybe one of the most popular stories from the collection of novels, “The Pale Lady” is a terrifying woman who stalks her prey and disposes of her victims in an unorthodox embrace. Her victim, Chuck, is warned in his dreams to stay away from the red room and get as far away as he can. While trying to stay away from the red room of the hospital he’s currently in, Chuck sets off the panic alarm, which throws every room in the hospital in a nauseating red light, trapping him. Chuck is then confronted by a disgustingly inflated, inhuman woman with a monstrous smile on her face. Anywhere Chuck turns, she is there, before she finally traps him and opens her arms to him for a hug. The most horrifying part of this story, however, is that Chuck gives in at the end. He hugs her back and is then absorbed into her body, gone forever. No lesson is really learned except that in the face of pure terror, give up.

If you aren’t scared of these stories, that’s fine; they’re supernatural and they won’t happen to you. However, how long can you go without being bitten by a spider or even having a red dot on your face that resembles one? In one scene of the movie, a girl has a spider bite on her cheek. In two days, it grows to the size of a golf ball. When she goes to pop it, a hair shoots through, right in the middle. When she pulls the hair, something under the skin of her growth begins to crawl. Without warning, the growth explodes, covering her in hundreds of spiders, creeping and crawling over her in the bathroom. Although she survives the ordeal, albeit covered in spider bites, she’s sent to an insane-asylum to never return

While the movie itself isn’t amazing, Del Toro was able to take something on paper and bring it to life for a whole new generation.